Thank you for coming to IATHS last week to present to our 9th and 10th graders. The students enjoyed your presentation and the format that you used. Having an opportunity to explore the use of labels from multiple perspectives was a beneficial topic. The conversations you initiated about labels and your use of questioning helped students explore deeply their ideas. The number of students who shared and the depth of their sharing of personal thoughts and ideas demonstrated their trust in you and in each other.
Integrated Arts and Technology High School
Feedback from my time as a Peace and Justice Educator with the M.K. Gandhi Institute for Nonviolence (2009-2014).
I really appreciated the fact that George took the first few minutes to connect with the students by learning their names and asking about the root/meaning of each child’s name. Throughout the class, George led several activities that focused on respect: what does respect mean, who do you respect/disrespect, and how would your life change if you respected everyone around you. At the end of the class, George also showed an inspirational clip of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. The students took awhile to settle, but soon became engaged, curious, and eager to share their thoughts and questions. When asked who they respected, many students agreed that they respected their own mothers either because they “brought them into this world” or because they provided for them in some way. However, one student mentioned that he respected a serial killer, but I forget his reasoning. This comment was concerning to me and I would like to discuss this further with him. This child in general, is picked on frequently and also has trouble expressing anger in an appropriate/healthy manner. When asked who they disrespected, many kids mentioned drug dealers or serial killers, and interestingly one student said Jesus, but couldn’t think of a specific reason why he disrespected him.
Next, children were asked to answer the question, ”What if you respected everyone around you?” Some students felt the result would be positive, a better world, less fighting etc. But one student believed that his peers would see his kindness as a weakness. It was really interesting for me to hear this comment from a student, because I feel like this is the reality that many students live in. I think it is very important for me to be conscious of this mentality and realize that many students feel that they need to constantly be on guard. Next, we talked about the roots of the word respect. The word originates from Latin, meaning spectacles or to see (but with a tinted lens of racism, bias, etc.) and “re” meaning again or to see clearly without judgment. This in particular was very interesting to me. This also invited one student to question whether respect should be earned or is it something that everyone deserves. Also, can someone force you to respect, or is that defeating the purpose?
At the end the students all enjoyed snacks that George generously brought with him. I really appreciated George’s visit and the kids also expressed interest in doing further workshops. I think it would be very valuable to continue collaborating, whether it’s once a week or once a month.
Center for Youth Instructor,
Monroe High School
We can’t thank you enough for your gracious workshop with the UU Spiritual Survivors. Since we have focused this fall on nonviolent communication, it was absolutely wonderful to witness this practice in our community. I heard from many of the children how interesting and moving the visit was for them. Your stories about Gandhi’s life and his practice of Ahimsa gave the theoretical idea of non-violence a real context. Also physically being in a space devoted to Gandhi’s work was meaningful... Throughout the visit you reinforced principles of self-awareness, universal needs, respect for others, and serving those in need – all ideas we value as well. I hope you will put me and the First Unitarian Church on your email list of coming events and opportunities. I will gladly pass the information along to the Spiritual Survivors. I think the kids also really connected with Gandhi’s famous words, “Be the change you wish to see.” We are extremely grateful for your time and the care you took to illuminate the life of Mahatma Gandhi for us. May this be the beginning of more interaction and connection to your important work.
Youth Ministry Team at the First Unitarian Church
Thank you very much to you and your staff for an excellent workshop on peacemaking. The speakers were excellent as were your presentations and your staff's. The week went very well and hopefully made all of us look at nonviolence in a different way.
St. Jerome Church
Last week I had the pleasure of bringing 22 students and 5 adults to the Gandhi Institute. This was a diverse group of students, including regular education and special education students. What they all had in common was that they are working on peace building in our school. Some of the students are at risk of dropping out of school and are taking a class to “reconnect” them to our school community. They are working on peaceful conflict resolution skills as part of their class work. Some students are involved in peace circles in their classroom on a weekly basis. Some students are part of a student led “Keep the Peace” committee who will be designing and implementing Brockport High’s School’s 4th Annual “Peace Day” this year. All of these students have a thirst for knowledge about peace building. Their experience at the Gandhi Institute as one student described was ” eye-opening!” As I reflect on the visit some thoughts come to mind. The diversity of
the students in the room reflected the diversity of our world. By diversity I don’t just mean physical characteristics that we can see but diversity also in thinking and experience. Many of the thoughts and ideas put forth by the students were different. Students seldom get a chance to speak about such an important topic with each other and with adults. We are all aware of the isolating effects of social media. Our visit to the Gandhi Institute allowed students to hear directly from each other and to share their personal view of the world. George Payne did a great job teaching Gandhi’s principles of non-violence and Gandhi’s belief that all human beings are equal. One student in particular really questioned that notion. What an opportunity for her to be able to hear a different point of view and also to feel safe enough to express hers! In addition our students got to see firsthand that peace building is going on all over the world. While we visited
our students were introduced to a gentleman from New Zealand who is participating in an internship at the Gandhi Institute. What an opportunity for students to see that peace building is contagious! In addition our students met Fatima Bawany. Fatima’s message that students could change the world resonated with them! If you haven’t already done so, I urge you to go to the Gandhi Institute and open your eyes, ears and heart to Peace!
Teacher at Brockport Central School
Everyday in seminary we talk about G-d and Christ. But very rarely do we figure out how to apply those “Christian” principles outside our ivory tower. George was able to make the a principle come to life. It was a fun and informative time. George is very talented, passionate and courageous presenter.
Student at CRCDS
I liked the idea that everything is connected, to the point that if I hurt one person, I am hurting the entire community, including myself. It gives more meaning to the words we looked at today, which were variations of “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” It’s not only for the good of the other person; it is for the good of yourself. George then talked about the idea of “remembering,” how if you break down the word, it means “re-membering,” i.e. putting something back together. When we remember something, we are re-creating something, putting parts together to get a unified whole. Suddenly, “remembering” because a communal event rather than something an individual does.
Andrew Van Buren
We visited the Gandhi House on a cold December morning. We were greeted outside the house by Mr. George Payne. We received a warm welcome and a very detailed tour of the new premises. My students and I felt welcome and received.
The overall experience was incredible. My students were asked open ended questions that made them critically think and problem solve. The content was on their “level” as well as pushed them to think outside the box and beyond their prior knowledge.
George unified us with team building activities, the kids participated in, and learned from. The students shared both their thoughts and feelings.
It was around a table of food, where George explained the meaning of Gandhi’s life long journey, hardships and inspiration. He made Gandhi real and relatable to the students.
We shared in a family style meal, where we continued to talk and imagine a Rochester, NY where children are not afraid to walk in their neighborhoods and gun shots are rarely heard.
We ended the morning with some centering meditation exercises. The students learned a lot about themselves and the complexity of clearing one’s mind.
I am thankful for the opportunity to work with such an empathetic, educated, simple man. George gave my students an opportunity to explore an element of critical thinking they seldom experience. The subject matter taught with such passion and simplicity was a perfect match for my students.
We intend to go back to the Gandhi House in June, for the end of the year. It was a bonding, uplifting experience for all in attendance.
Teacher with Transitioning Post Secondary Students with Intellectual Disabilities (TPSID)
George Payne, from the Gandhi Institute, led a Nonviolence Communication workshop to three sections of my Leadership and Diversity class during Upward Bound’s 2013 summer program. The students in the class were all from Rochester City School District high schools. George shared with the students some information about Gandhi’s life and legacy and then asked them to imagine what the world would look like if criticism and judgement did not exist. He then facilitated a discussion with the students, having them describe this world and give examples of how life would be different. This was the starting off point for the workshop in which George explained a non-violent approach to conflict resolution and communication. The students felt comfortable enough to really open up and share different conflicts that they had dealt with. One student said she “learned to not blame [her]self or others and to accept how it (conflict) will make both of us feel”. Another student said he learned “peaceful ways to solve problems” and another said he was “introduced to a new way of thinking about things”. George selected one or two students from each section to share a conflict they had recently experienced and he helped them analyze it to realize the feelings they were experiencing in the moment as well as the needs they had within that situation. He also helped them understand what needs the other person in the conflict may have had and the emotions that they may have been experiencing. He encouraged them to try to resolve the issue in a way that would meet both person’s needs. By choosing one student as an example, all the students were able to grasp what it means to use a nonviolent approach to conflict resolution and communication. The workshop was valuable for all who participated and I would definitely have the Gandhi Institute come back in the future!
On a bright, crisp morning in September 2013, a hugely diverse group of students, staff, faculty, and community members gathered for worship and discussion on the South patio at Colgate Rochester Crozer Divinity School. The student-led Social Justice Committee had invited alumnus George Payne, who is Peace and Justice Educator at the M.K. Gandhi Institute for Nonviolence to speak about peacemaking in our world today. We live in a world where people claim hundreds of “friendships” on social media, but can’t remember the last time they sat face-to-face with any of them. We’re so willing to share personal details of our lives on the internet, but real tragedy in the world has become a concept too impersonal for our prospering western minds to grasp. George began his discussion with us by saying he almost didn’t come. His heart was just too broken over the violence in the world, and the lack of peace in his own life. There are days when the task seems just too big. But George did show up, and spoke to the assembly about Christ’s willingness to die for the sake of peace. Darkness cannot shut out darkness, only light can do that. Hate cannot destroy hate, only love can do that. Violence cannot stop violence, only peace can do that. Instead of being so eager to kill for the cause, the solution is to be willing to die for the cause, whatever the particular cause may be. What would you give up in order to help another human being? A violent world requires sacrificial living to balance it.
Perhaps because of the first cold snap of the season, or perhaps at the urging of the Holy Spirit, participants drew close together to offer small ways we all can work for peace in a world brimming with violence. Later in the semester, a week of lectures focused on healing the wounded human spirit would again call to mind the importance of empowering communities for peace-making. It is in genuinely loving one another, celebrating differences, and working for justice together that we will make a difference in this lifetime. We are grateful for the efforts and leadership of the M.K. Gandhi Institute for Nonviolence in our community, and look forward to more opportunities to work together toward peace.
Student at Colgate Rochester Crozer